High tide means the beach is covered, so I take to the promenade in order to walk around Trearddur Bay.
When I reach the end of the bay I know the official Isle of Anglesey Coast Path joins the road. But I discover there is no need to stick to the tarmac. Instead, you can follow narrow paths that weave in and out around the little headlands and tiny coves.
These minor deviations add to the total distance of my walk, and increase the time it takes, but the extra effort is well worth it. I was anticipating a boring mile or more of tarmac slogging. Instead, I enjoy a beautiful scramble around low cliffs, surrounded by stunning views.
I am forced to join the road eventually, although only for a short time. Here I pass a group of women ramblers coming towards me. I snap a photograph of their backs.
I’m actually quite thrilled to see some other walkers out and about, after having met nobody on the trail yesterday. Little do I know my path is going to become positively crowded as the day progresses.
The air is still, the sun is shining, the sea is blue, and the cliffs are amazing – with deep striations separating colourful layers in the rock face.
I reach a secluded cove. Porth Dafarch. In a few days time my eldest daughter will be here with her triathlete club, going for a quick dip in this clear water. It’s too cold for serious swimming.
Beyond Porth Dafarch and, once I get past the holiday park, the scenery is even better.
This is National Trust land. The path meanders across patches of short grass surrounded by colourful gorse. And more walkers appear.
I leave the beaten path whenever I can, climbing up among the rocks close to the shore. It’s a truly beautiful place and one of my most enjoyable walking days on Anglesey so far.
Around a headland (Penrhyn Mawr) and I can see the South Stack lighthouse ahead. But it’s still some distance away, with the bay of Abraham’s Bosom to negotiate first.
Abraham’s Bosom? What a name! The rocks that line the bay are wonderful. They look like works of modern art – all lines and angles and washed with a palette of soft greys, yellow sienna and warm ochre. I take far too many photographs.
The line of the path seems to be leading straight to Holyhead Mountain itself.
I know the official route is about to turn inland and join a road. But I’m hopeful of finding a way around by the coast and a little path seems promising as it takes me down the slope and close to the water’s edge.
Then I come to a steep gully with a stream at the bottom. Despite managing to clamber across without falling into the water, I realise my path is petering out. What a shame. Never mind. This makes a good picnic spot. And what a wonderful view.
After lunch I retrace my steps, climb up the slope, and find the road. Onwards.
It’s only about a mile of road walking, but the final section is steep. I’m tired when I reach the top and, when I see a sign saying ‘Hut Circles’, realise I’m glad of an excuse to stop walking and do some sight-seeing.
Anglesey is full of surprises. The circles mark the remains of an extensive prehistoric settlement. I don’t explore the whole area, but I do enjoy wandering around among the stones nearest to the road.
The site is becoming crowded. The good weather has brought out tourists and casual strollers, as well as groups of walkers. One group of ramblers settle down near the entrance to the site and start eating a picnic. Some of them have even brought folding seats in their backpacks (of the shooting-stick variety).
A wide path follows the top of the slope and this is where most people are walking. But a lower path hugs the edge of the cliff, and this is the route I follow. It’s beautiful.
The white tower – Ellin’s Tower – is a bird-watching centre, run by the RSPB. I go inside and take a quick look through their binoculars.
Up on the road is a car parking area – busy with sightseers – and an ice-cream van. I’m thirsty and try to buy a cold drink but the ice-cream man tells me his fridge isn’t working properly, although his freezer is fine. So I buy an orange lolly instead, and sit on a wall, waiting for the ice to soften enough to quench my thirst.
Below me is the lighthouse of South Stack. From this angle it looks very familiar… and I realise this is because the same view is used on the cover of my current OS Explorer map.
I don’t go down towards the lighthouse. Instead I turn and follow the coastal path as it climbs upwards.
Ahead is the bulky mass of Holyhead Mountain. And the high plateau around the mountain is punctuated by a number of small lakes. It’s beautiful. But there are several other groups of walkers up here and, after walking in isolation for days, the place seems crowded!
Not just walkers. As I get nearer to the mountain I can see brightly coloured dots on the surface of the cliffs. Climbers.
The group of walkers ahead of me turn off the main path and I realise they’re heading up the mountain too – but taking a slightly easier route compared to the climbers. I’m tempted to follow them. But the thought of trailing behind a crowd puts me off, and I decide to stick to the coastal path instead. In any case, I’m never going to finish my walk if I keep getting distracted!
My path climbs up to a peak above the sea. These are some of the highest sea cliffs in Wales and the views are wonderful. But it’s a tricky section. At times the path seems to disappear among the rocks and I’m pleased I have my Garmin to show me I’m still on the right track. I meet some walkers coming down and pass a couple going up.
At the top there is a great view. For the first time I can look down onto Holyhead town and the harbour. From here huge ferries leave to make the crossing over to Ireland. And just over the water I can see the north-west shore of Anglesey.
Time to get going again. I begin to descend the other side of the peak.
This is rough terrain and the toughest walking I’ve done for a long time. Huge boulders dot the gorse-covered slope. The path is narrow and steep, with a surface of uneven rocks and loose stones. I’m nervous about turning an ankle or taking a tumble – and somewhat spooked when I realise I’m totally alone. No other walkers have come this far. (I’d assumed everyone I saw was walking the coast path, but clearly they weren’t.)
To add to my unease, I can’t see where I’m heading, as the slope curves away convexly below me and there seem to be no landmarks – just rocks and gorse and my ill-defined path.
So it’s a relief when I reach a point where I can see a collection of buildings perched on the cliff, just above a tiny island. That must be North Stack. And the wide track off to the right must be the continuation of the coastal path…
… except it’s not. The path heads further down towards the buildings by the sea, following a ruined and rutted road. Surely no traffic could get along here? I’m not sure what this site was used for but one small building has the word ‘Magazine’ etched above the door. Some sort of fortification?
[Later I discover a fog-warning station used to be sited here. The magazine held ammunition for the fog cannons.]
Now my path leaves the road and turns right to follow the slope along the edge of the bay. Still not a soul in sight.
Further along and I come across a strange building. A small chapel? A shepherd’s hut? Another magazine? There is no information board and the structure isn’t marked on my map. It remains a mystery.
A couple of dog walkers appear at this point. They don’t continue further up, not intending to reach North Stack, but turn back towards Holyhead. I would have liked to ask them about the building, but the dog is barking and straining on its lead in an intimidating manner. I let them walk ahead of me.
The path comes down off the high ground. I can see a plateau of grassland ahead. This turns out to be a popular recreational area: Holyhead Breakwater Country Park.
Now there are plenty of strollers around. And kayakers out on the water. I watch a young woman struggle to get her kayak ashore, but the rocks are covered in seaweed and are too slippery. She paddles out again and disappears round a corner of headland.
Further along and I see where the kayakers have landed on a shingle beach and are carrying their kayaks up the slope to the road above. A forbidding fortress overlooks the shore.
My path turns inland and crosses the road, to continue down a track. It’s not the most scenic of walks. I pass a derelict building surrounded by a high, barbed-wire fence.
And then down a narrow lane with no views…
… past another derelict house.
The lane joins a road and suddenly I’m on the coast again. I recognise where I am. There is a marina just inside the breakwater wall and, on the road, is a hotel/pub where I had breakfast this morning. (My own B&B doesn’t do proper breakfasts, I’m sad to say.)
I’m only 5 minutes away from the end of my walk, and this is the perfect place to stop for a rest and a glass of cold cider. Inside I meet a number of walkers who I recognise and they recognise me. They’re the group I saw earlier, the ones who climbed to the top of Holyhead Mountain. It was very steep, they tell me, but the views were worth it.
I always regret the walks I didn’t do. Perhaps I’ll return and climb the mountain on another day.
Miles walked today = 13 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 905 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,412 miles